As the sequester looms, I have come to peace with it. It’s dumb, but it’s not a massive cut. It’s $83 billion, and half of it will come from the Pentagon. If you believe, as I do, that “defense” is massively over-funded and may even now be creating its own future enemies in Af-Pak and Africa to sustain its budgetary wants, then any way to bring it back to reasonable, non-hegemonic size is helpful.
More to the point, the Bush-Cheney years have destroyed the notion that the US military never makes mistakes, can never start a new Vietnam, and always has an exit plan if it invades and occupies a country (Bush and Cheney forgot theirs in their rush to find weapons that didn’t exist). Their wars – failed at worst, inconclusive at best, but indisputably budget-breaking – have shifted the country away from neo-imperialism for a while (unless the Greater Israel Lobby really can force the rest of us into a new war to keep Israel’s nukes the only game in the region).
And in a budget crisis, where the GOP is rightly demanding structural spending cuts, we have two big shiny objects to raid: Medicare, and defense. (Social security could be saved with minor tinkering.) Now if Americans were to choose between taking care of granny or policing the entire Pacific ocean for the indefinite future, I have a feeling they’d pick granny. And it turns out I’m not wrong:
In order to reduce America’s debts and deficits, more than twice as many voters said they would support defense cuts as said they would support cuts to social programs.
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare. An overwhelming majority, 69 percent, said they would oppose cuts to social programs.
The public wants cuts; and it wants them overwhelmingly from defense, rather than Medicare. So let the sequester begin. It’s the dumbest version of what the American people want – but with this Congress, dumb is as good as we’ll ever get. As for Medicare, it too needs major surgery. But Obama has pledged to cut it by the same amount as Bowles-Simpson over the next ten years. If a Republican president had said that, they’d be giving him a standing O. But this is the moderate Republican Obama – and there’s nothing more that the GOP base hates than a moderate Republican. Eisenhower would have no home in this party. He loathed its core elements more than perhaps any other Republican president apart from George H W Bush.